The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has taken the Federal and state governments before the ECOWAS Court of Justice sitting in Abuja over alleged attacks on journalists and bloggers.
According to a statement issued on Sunday by the Deputy Director of SERAP, Kolawole Oluwadare, the suit is to agitate against the frequent application of the Cybercrime Act to harass and intimidate bloggers and journalists across the country.
In cases of alleged defamation of government officials, the group noted that sanctions should “not be so large as to exert a chilling effect on freedom of opinion, expression and media freedom; penal sanctions, in particular imprisonment, should never be applied”.
The group seeks to achieve the following via the suit:
1. A declaration that the actions of the defendants and its agents and several states of Nigeria in arbitrarily enforcing the provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 particularly its section 24 to harass, intimidate, arrest, detain, prosecute and imprison journalists, bloggers, and social media users, violate the rights to freedom of expression, information, opinion and privacy and media freedom, guaranteed under Articles 6,8,9 and 24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Articles 7,9,17 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a state party
2. A declaration that the provisions of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention, etc) Act 2015 are entirely inconsistent and incompatible with international human rights standards and infringe on the rights to the freedom of expression, information and opinion guaranteed under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
3. A declaration that the continuing use and application by the Defendant and its agents and several states in Nigeria of the Cybercrime is illegal and unlawful, as it amounts to breaches of obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights to freedom of expression and information and media freedom
4. An order directing the Defendant to immediately repeal and/or amend the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act 2015 in line with Nigerian obligations under international human rights law
5. An order directing the Defendant and/or its agents and several states of Nigeria to provide effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant to human rights defenders, activists bloggers, journalists and other online and off-line media practitioners that have been harassed, intimidated, unlawfully arrested, detained, and unfairly prosecuted by the Defendant.
A date is yet to be fixed for the hearing of the suit.